Fifty years ago next Monday, John Glenn became an all-time American hero when his small chunky single-seat spacecraft did three laps of Earth. The flight was a huge morale boost for a beleaguered US space program that had suffered numerous setbacks.

In this age of constant exposure and celebrity slime, it's hard to understand how sincerely the early astronauts were presented as noble shining heroes to the nation. Glenn was the exception to the underlying reality: he really was the good guy that lived up to the hype. The others? Well, they were mostly a bunch of military pilots: boisterous, arrogant, smart-alecky, not terribly faithful to their wives, and often crude. They flew like gods, but weren't exactly godlike material at home.


Tom Wolfe laid all this out in The Right Stuff, a book which irrevocably swept away the Mercury era's earnest PR efforts. Among many amusing details is the identification of an English vernacular strain Wolfe called "Army Creole," which basically involved using as many profanities in a conversation as could be contextually supported and which, according to ThirdPedalGirl, is not unlike the way we might be understood by Apple's computerized personal assistant:

I wonder how Siri-based infotainment systems will deal with the swearing and salty language that accompanies so much of our driving.

"What a douche!"
Walgreens in five miles. Osco in four miles.

"Damn it!"
Nearest lake is seven miles.

"Fuck! I've missed my exit!"
Condoms are preferred over withdrawal as a method of birth control.


Computer illustration of Friendship 7 via Wikipedia.

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